For many, driving can cause high anxiety or even panic attacks. Driving anxiety is a type of phobia that can cause a person to become a prisoner in their home due to their inability to operate a vehicle when anxious. Persons with driving anxiety can be placed in two distinct categories. The first category are people who believe their avoidance of driving protects them from an impending tragedy. Anytime driving is avoided; people in this first category genuinely believe that an accident would have been likely had they driven. The second category of persons with driving anxiety do not typically believe that accidents are likely when they drive. However, they cannot help but feel a sense of panic when confronted with triggering driving conditions such as snow, ice, bridges, tunnels, highways, etc.
The mental mistake we make:
The mental mistake persons in both categories make is that they overestimate the likelihood of an adverse event happening while driving. Unfortunately, TV shows and movies unfairly influence our perceptions of how likely accidents can happen. The media we consume can create overestimations of driving danger due to the pervasiveness of accidents seen on Tv and movies.
The mistake we make with our behaviors:
The behavioral mistake we make is avoiding driving altogether when we are triggered. Many people with driving anxiety feel a strong desire to completely distance themselves from a car when they feel uncomfortable levels of driving anxiety.
Let’s Deal with Anxiety: Dealing with driving anxiety in 5 steps:
Accept the fact that you have high levels of anxiety about driving. Don’t think of your driving fear as ridiculous. Instead, see your driving anxiety as a healthy challenge you intend to overcome.
Acknowledge that your anxiety and safety concerns about driving are real and valid. However, have an honest conversation with yourself about how much you may overestimate the likelihood of danger while driving.
Do not avoid driving altogether when you are anxious or triggered. If you are already in your car when triggered, pull over when it is safe and allow your anxiety to pass while remaining in the vehicle. Practice challenging your overestimations of danger while also putting yourself in a mindset of being more flexible to your anxious feelings. Try not to get out of your car or have someone else drive for you. It is crucial that you begin to associate your vehicle as a place where you become anxious but also a place where you can manage your thoughts and accept your anxiety.
If you are triggered before driving, do not avoid your car. Go and sit in your vehicle while anxious and allow your anxiety to pass. You can also drive a very comfortable and short route while you are anxious.
The tips mentioned above will help you to interrupt the cycle of associating your car with danger and anxiety.
Here to help!
If you or someone you know struggles with driving anxiety, please consider anxiety treatment for yourself or share this blog with someone you know who may be struggling. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable conditions, yet many still go without treatment. If you would like to become a new client at The Anxiety Treatment Center of West Michigan, please use the link below to schedule a new client appointment. If you have questions about treatment, please feel free to call 269-359-1873 ext 2 for questions.
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